Sunday, August 15, 1999


Kids learn they can be own bosses

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Don't tell Gail Lynn Williams that a person is born with a vein of entrepreneurship. She and a few others at the Cincinnati Business Incubator hope to show that such initiative can be learned.

        Ms. Williams is director of administration at Camp Biz Kids, a summer program that concluded Friday and was sponsored by the incubator to teach young people to excel in business and do it on their own.

        The program attempted to show youngsters that they do not have to work for somebody else to get by in this world.

        “This week, we are planting the seed,” Ms. Williams said.

        Sixteen children aged 12 to 18 were registered in the camp and learned how to research business opportunities, develop plans and produce a product.

        They went to the library, learned about the stock market and how to invest in it and heard first-hand from business owners about what it takes to run a firm. Not all the enrollees were naive about entrepreneurship, she said.

        “Some of the parents calling into register their child for the class pointed out that their child had already done X, Y and Z,” Ms. Williams said. “They are not all coming at this from a zero base.”

        Students reported to classes at the offices of the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, 3458 Reading Road, and learned about how most businesses try to instill a sense of ownership among employees.

        “When you are working for someone, you go into the supply cabinet and get some paper clips,” Ms. Williams said. “But when you are working for yourself, you have to go to a store and buy the clips.”

        Teaching entrepreneurship, is not as much about encouraging risk as it is about teaching how to minimize risk, said William D. Cunningham, director of the Xavier Entrepreneurial Center.

        “One of the great things about having camps is it brings other kids together, and you learn that it's OK to take on some risk,” Mr. Cunningham said. “You can't teach passion in the belly. But if you hang around people who have it, it rubs off.”

        Wiley Kyles, 39, partner at the Mount Adams-based W. Bernard Kyles & Co., an accounting and management consulting firm, said he enrolled his daughter, Whitney, because he wanted her to know that good grades in school are important — but so is initiative.

        “America has a lot to offer,” he said. “But you don't always have to go to work for somebody. You can work for yourself.”

        Rayshon Person, the 15-year-old son of Raymond and Gloria Person, plans to put his Camp Biz experience to good use next summer by starting his own car wash or lawn service.

        “I'm going to go door to door to start,” he said. “This camp has taught me that you don't just start off with a business and bang, you have one. There is a process you have to go through. And then you have got to have a backup plan.”

        John Eckberg covers small-business news for the Enquirer. Have a small-business question, concern or quandary? Call him at 768-8386 or e-mail him at, and he will find the expert with the answers.


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